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Dark Chocolate: 10 Surprising Health Benefits Beyond the Taste

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While munching on milk or white chocolate, one often thinks, “I should only eat a little.” They’re sweet, and we naturally assume they are bad for our health. In reality, those who want to reap the health benefits of chocolate often opt for dark chocolate. But is dark chocolate, which has a stronger bitter taste than sweetness, really good for your health?

Dark Chocolate Rich in Antioxidants

Dark chocolate does not contain milk but contains ingredients such as cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and sugar. If it contains 72% cocoa, it is called ‘72% dark chocolate’. Dark chocolate contains more antioxidants, flavonoids, and polyphenols than milk chocolate. These components produce nitric oxide, improving blood circulation and lowering blood pressure. Polyphenols also reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, often called bad cholesterol, preventing atherosclerosis.

Alleviates Symptoms of Depression

Eating dark chocolate can alleviate symptoms of depression. In the study assessing patients’ depression with the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), a standard diagnostic tool for depression, the group that consumed dark chocolate showed a 70% lower probability of displaying symptoms of depression compared to the group that did not consume chocolate. In particular, it was found that the group that consumed a lot of chocolate, regardless of the type, had a 57% lower chance of showing symptoms of depression compared to the group that did not eat any chocolate at all.

Checking Ingredients Before Purchase is Essential

The importance of checking the ingredients before purchasing also applies to dark chocolate. Many chocolates on the market reduce butter content and instead mix cheap oil and emulsifiers. These chocolates are labeled as hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil. Hydrogenated oil, which contains trans fats, increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis and raises blood pressure. Once trans fat enters the body, it is not easily excreted, so it is best to avoid consumption.

Fat, Where the Issues Stem From

Chocolate generally contains a lot of fat. It includes a lot of saturated fat, which can trigger hyperlipidemia, as 50% of cocoa beans are fat, and cocoa butter is added during manufacturing. Fortunately, cocoa butter contains stearic acid, the only saturated fat that doesn’t raise cholesterol levels in the blood. Therefore, if the chocolate does not add extra fat, there is less worry about hyperlipidemia. High-quality chocolates use cocoa butter, but popular dark chocolates can add saturated fat, so it’s best not to consume too much.

High in Calories

Like regular chocolate, dark chocolate is high in calories, with about 550 per 100 g, so you need to be careful not to overeat. However, if consumed in moderation, it can help prevent overeating. This is because theobromine in dark chocolate stimulates leptin secretion, a hormone that suppresses appetite. Eating 10-20 g 30 minutes before a meal can indirectly aid dieting.

How to Prevent Overeating Chocolate?

To prevent overeating chocolate, it’s good to pair it with almonds. If you overeat chocolate, you consume too much of the theobromine in chocolate. While this component suppresses appetite when consumed in moderation, excessive intake can stimulate the central nervous system (CNS), causing excitement or tension. Ultimately, it stimulates the brain’s reward system, making you want to keep eating. On the other hand, eating chocolate with nuts, where lecithin neutralizes the stimulation to the CNS, could reduce the desire to keep eating chocolate.

How Much Caffeine is in It?

Chocolate contains over 500 ingredients. Among them, caffeine is present in cocoa beans at 0.2%, and the higher the cocoa content, the higher the caffeine content. The caffeine content is about 62 mg per 100 g dark chocolate and 26 mg per 100 g of milk chocolate. A mixed coffee contains about 70 mg, and a cup made from beans contains about 150 mg, so chocolate contains relatively less caffeine.

Benefits of Dark Chocolate for Skin

Chocolate contains ingredients that improve rough skin and protect the skin from sunlight. It also helps blood circulation and maintains healthy skin. However, regular chocolate, which is high in sugar, is not suitable for skin improvement, so it is recommended to consume dark chocolate that contains more than 80% cocoa.

Helpful When Consumed Before Exercise

The flavanols, bioactive compounds in cocoa powder and dark chocolate, can improve exercise performance. Flavanols, plant nutrients extracted from cocoa beans, help with oxygen supply and blood circulation. Beyond improving blood circulation, they also have a vasodilation effect, preventing blood clots and memory loss.

What If It Turns White on the Outside?

If you store chocolate improperly, a white powder forms on the surface, known as bloom. There are two types of bloom: fat bloom, which occurs when chocolate is stored in a hot place, causing the cocoa butter to melt and rise to the surface, forming fat crystals, and sugar bloom, which occurs when chocolate is stored in a damp place causing the sugar to dissolve in the moisture and appear white on the surface. Both are harmless to the body and can be eaten. However, the taste may deteriorate, so it’s best to store it properly.

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